The Tobii Eye Tracker 5, as the name suggests, is the newest version of Tobii’s eye-tracking system, and like previous versions, it works so well in games that support it, I don’t know if I can go back to playing without it. The non-gaming software used for Windows functionality remains largely unchanged from the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C I reviewed in 2017 in functionality. While you’re able to do everything you could do before, the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 does it better and more accurately than before.
Here’s what we thought of the latest entry into the Tobii Eye Tracker hardware family.
Tobii Eye Tracker 5 Set-Up and Installation
Setting up the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 is a snap. In the box is a small, metal strip with an adhesive backing you attach to the bottom of your display. A magnet on the Tracker itself keeps it in place, and lets you easily remove and replace it as you see fit. My monitor has raised lettering on the “Dell” logo right where the adhesive is supposed to be, which would have been a problem with the last version I tested out, but the Eye Tracker 5 includes a mount for curved monitors I slapped on the bottom of my display.
The curved mount is in two parts: an adhesive velcro pad you stick on the bottom of the monitor, and a small plastic mount that mates to it. The Velcro pads are no joke: this is like the legit, real-deal stuff that you see in commercial or military applications, and as such, it holds on super tightly. The Eye Tracker itself mounts magnetically to the plastic mount, and the whole thing is rock-solid. Since the Tracker is held to the brace by the power of magnetism, it’s easy to pop on or off.
Since the Dell logo on my monitor gets in the way, I just attached the curved-monitor adapter and it works great. In fact, I almost feel like even if I didn’t have the bothersome raised lettering on the front of my monitor, I’d prefer using the rugged velcro solution designed to adapt to curved monitors. It stays in place really well.
Installation of the software is a snap. You just plug the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 into your PC via USB and it walks you through the set-up and calibration process. Calibrating it might be the most fun you can have while calibrating an infrared instrument, although I’m not an engineer so I can’t say that authoritatively. You just stare at a few small, spinning dots on the screen until they burst, and once you’ve stared at enough, it’s off to the races. It’s that easy.
The Tobii Eye Tracker 5 includes an extra female-to-female USB extension, if your PC is on the floor, or otherwise too far from your monitor for the cord on the unit itself. It’s a nice addition to the box, because it gives the option of extending only when and if you need to extend. I have far too many bundles of 6-foot USB cords in and around my PC as it is, so having an extension I can choose not to use, instead of tying up with a strap and adding to the bundle of wires already around my PC, is great.
One thing I’ve noticed using the Tobii Eye Tracker is its infrared reflection gets picked up by my Logitech webcam. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but some manner of filter inside my webcam picks up hotspots on my chest where the infrared is being reflected. It’s not a big deal, but the first time I did a Google Hangouts meeting with the Eye Tracker turned on, I thought something was wrong with my camera. Fortunately the magnetic strip makes it easy to pop the Eye Tracker off for meetings.
Using the Tobii Eye Tracker 5
In my review of the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C, I talked about how much I liked the “warp on mouse button” feature. Basically, it allowed me to look at a point on the screen and push an assigned hotkey and bam–the mouse pointer appeared (almost) exactly where I was looking.
That feature returns for the Eye Tracker 5, and it works about as well as it did on the older version. That is to say, “well enough.” When my office environment is dim, like on a gloomy, rainy day, accuracy takes a hit. There’s also a loss of accuracy when I’m wearing my glasses. But when my contacts are in and the room is lit up, it’s incredible. Seriously, it hits the target probably 98% of the time, and when it does miss, it just barely misses at all. It’s really impressive, actually.
Similar to the mouse warp function, the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 also lets you Alt+Tab with your eyeballs. Just hit the buttons and hold down the Alt key, look at the window you want to focus on, and release. It’s a cool feature, one I appreciate, since I have a lot of different windows open at any one time.
In addition to those convenience features, the Tobii Eye Tracker software lets you set some security features, too. You can set it up to lock your PC after a few seconds, or minutes, if you’re not in front of it. In the menus, it says you can also use it to unlock your PC, but the Tobii Experience software didn’t give me the option, and Windows told me I didn’t have a camera that supports its facial recognition security features.
You can also set your screen to dim when you’ve been away from it for an amount of time you find best suits your needs, but only if your monitor supports it (mine doesn’t).
I find all the extra Windows features pretty useful, actually. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it does improve my work flow merely glancing at a spot on the screen rather than moving the mouse. It hasn’t completely replaced moving the pointer with my mouse, especially since even in ideal conditions it doesn’t quite hit the mark 100% of the time, but it’s still really cool, as is the Alt-Tab Window swapping.
Gaming With the Tobii Eye Tracker 5
Now this is where things get interesting. Yes, the Windows functionality of the Tobii Eye Tracker is convenient, and works better than the previous version I tested. But where it really shines is in gaming.
The Tobii Experience software has a section for streamers, and includes the Tobii Ghost feature. Basically, a little bubble chases your gaze around the screen, letting your viewers see exactly where you’re looking on the screen at any time. It’s very accurate, and the way the bubble moves is pretty satisfying, but I don’t see myself using it. You can also set it so only your audience sees the Ghost, and they can customize it to their liking by adjusting the “shape, size and color,” according to Tobii.
It’s a neat little feature for streams, but not one I’m too interested in, personally. For me, the brilliance of the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 is its integration into games. There’s a solid line-up of games supporting Tobii Eye Tracking, and the effect it has is so awesome it makes it hard to go back.
Just like before, I tested the Eye Tracker in Tomb Raider, and the effect is the same: whoa. Seriously, when you enter into a massive cavern and move your gaze around the screen, it almost feels like you’re there. The effect makes a flat, 2D image feel like it has depth and makes it lifelike, downright awe-inspiring. Tilt your head up and Lara Croft’s gaze follows, unfolding the scenery around you in a way that’s both natural and adds so much to the experience.
Where the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 really shines, and this is going to sound bonkers, but bear with me, is in American Trucking Simulator. Until now, I never knew I could enjoy hauling construction equipment around the American Southwest, but the tracking works so well to make it feel like you’re actually sitting in the cab of a big rig, I found out I really like Truck Simulator now? Which is fine, because it’s so cool. It works in the same way as Tomb Raider, bringing a true feeling of depth to a flat screen image, but it’s the little touches that take it to the next level. If you’re a responsible driver like me, you know the importance of checking your mirrors. With the Eye Tracker, you can just glance over at them, like in real life, and the attention moves and focuses on your mirrors, then back again. It sounds crazy but it makes it feel so much more realistic, unlocking, for me, a new addiction to Truck Simulator.
Beyond just looking around and appreciating the scenery, you can aim at enemies in Tomb Raider with a mere look. That’s something I really liked last time, and the effect is just as great now as it was then. You can even aim at different parts of your enemies with a glance: I pulled back my bow for a stealth kill, looked at an enemy soldiers head and my aim snapped to it. Easy as pie.
Simulators are one of the most represented genre of games supporting the Tobii Eye Tracker 5. Farming Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator, Bus Simulator and Microsoft Flight Simulator X Steam Edition all support its eye-tracking features. I’m hoping it will work with the latest version of Flight Simulator, but it’s not just sims: games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Origins, Far Cry 5, For Honor and a ton of other Ubisoft games support it. It’s really hard to describe how the effect is at once so subtle while at the same time adding a whole new level of realism.